‘Siege’ of a totalitarian state

Curbs on civil liberties, moves for thought control turn J&K into Orwellian state
Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s 235 day long detention inside his own house has finally ended with the lifting of heavy contingent of police and it would do well for the government to introspect dispassionately what this prolonged detention actually served ultimately rather than simply brushing aside the allegations of excessive and undeserving curbs on the movement of separatist leaders. The Director General Police on Tuesday remarked that Geelani was never under any siege and called it an exaggeration while using the rider that he had been free to carry on any political activity as long as “it is within the bounds of law.” The ambiguity of this “bound of law” has been excessively used in a conflict region like Kashmir to justify the unjustifiable including wrongful confinements, detentions, arrests and tortures, even murders and custodial deaths.

The truth about Geelani is that he has practically spent more than half his time under house arrests since 2008, mostly barring the period that he is allowed to go to Delhi. He is not the only separatist leader to find himself confined to the four walls of his home. Other separatist leaders too have been either put under house arrest or jailed to restrict their movement within the Valley, even within Srinagar, including preventing them from visiting mosques on Fridays. Their detentions are inspired both when the Valley is on the boil and even when things are calm, on the slightest of pretext or no pretext at all. There is a virtual ban on the separatists from visiting any other part of the state, barring the Valley and to some extent the winter capital city

In the last half a decade, there are several occasions when separatist leaders have been barred from visiting places like Rajouri, Poonch and erstwhile Doda districts in Jammu region, where they have a sizeable following. Both in the aftermath of the Gool killings and the Kishtwar communal riots, it were not only the separatist leaders who bore the brunt of excessive curbs and restrictions but also the mainstream opposition leaders including Mehbooba Mufti. JKLF leader Yasin Malik was even debarred from visiting Doda and Bhaderwah following the earthquake to deliver relief to the tremor affected people even as tragedy did not even have any political or communal connotations. The relief material itself was prevented from reaching out to people of the affected areas. 

Such excessive curbs are uncalled for and certainly do not qualify for “within the bounds of law” argument while making an exception on guarantee of civil liberties. So are the random crackdowns, raids and arrests of youth, many of them under the draconian public safety act, in which several minors were also found to have been booked.

Never before has this law been so blatantly overused and abused as it has been done under the present Omar Abdullah led coalition government. The state has virtually been turned into an Orwellian state with its new found passion with thought control through excessive curbs on the media and the surveillance of the social media, leading to arrests of youngsters simply for airing their views on social networking sites, even when these did not amount of hate speech or provocation. The media, print and electronic, has been barred and confined through arm twisting ways especially with a discriminatory policy of distributing government advertisements. Newspapers were virtually blocked and restrictions put on media persons for atleast a fortnight both during the 2010 summer agitation and post Afzal Guru hanging. This is a siege mentality of a totalitarian state which has become absolutely tyrannical and fascist in nature. Where does the rule of the law exist, much less civil liberties as guaranteed under the Indian constitution and the most vital component of any democracy?